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March 2009

Julia Hülsmann Trio
The End of a Summer
ECM Records

Like all the most important record producers, Manfred Eicher of ECM is a major talent scout. His latest discovery is the German pianist Julia Hülsmann. It is easy to hear what drew Eicher to Hülsmann and her trio.

She is an artist inclined toward the darker colors and to the Zen of less-is-more. Her ensemble belongs with other ECM piano trios because it is a participatory democracy. Bassist Marc Muellbauer and drummer Heinrich Köbberling are fully articulate individual voices, not accompanists. Muellbauer is a discovery in himself. When he takes the lead on pieces like “Konbawa” and “Senza,” he rivets attention and adds weight and portent to the moment.

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Johanna Diehl

Julia Hülsmann

As a composer, Hülsmann creates fresh minimalist poetry like the title track, a farewell to summer based on the alternation of a melancholy chord and a single chiming treble note. Her aesthetic is also revealed in the one piece not composed by a member of the trio. She turns Seal’s bombastic “Kiss From a Rose” into a something like a dirge. Her measured, contemplative creative process can, over the length of an entire album, sometimes sound ponderous. But the dominant impression created by The End of a Summer is the serious purpose and promise of Hülsmann’s major label debut.

Originally published in March 2009
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